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ME AND THE DUCHESS

10 January 2002

I've never talked with a Duchess before, so it was a surprise to have my phone call answered by none other than Sarah, the Duchess of York. Of course she wasn't really there, it was just a recording, but still it's probably the closest I'll come to royalty in my lifetime (if you don't count all the queens I hang around with).

Yes, I've done it. I've taken the plunge. I've admitted that I am powerless against food and I have joined Weight Watchers.

Despite a lifetime of see saw dieting, this is only the second time that I have actually made physical contact with Weight Watchers. The first time was years and years ago when meetings were held downtown in the basement of some office building and when only a handful of people attended them.

The thing I remember most about those meetings was that even then I was the heaviest person in the room (and I'm significantly heavier now), and that I hated the cheerleader attitude of the leader.

In the interim, I've done other diets, and I've done the Weight Watcher diet over and over again (the latest a year ago, reported on right here in this journal). Each time I keep coming back to the WW diet as the only thing I can reasonably stick to. I have a whole shelf full of Weight Watchers cookbooks. So what made me decide to go to meetings?

Well, I decided that I needed the discipline of having to get out and confront people, and yeah, maybe I need the cheerleading. I need to have the weekly public weigh-ins. I need to pay money each week to keep me on track. (It's the same philosophy behind paying for psychotherapy--you are more likely to work harder if you've paid big bucks to get where you are).

So I placed my call to the Duchess.

Since I last set foot inside a room where Weight Watchers meetings were being held, things have changed.

It's more expensive for one thing (the "free registration" is just a carrot to get you in the door).

And it's high tech. Gone the clunky doctor's weight-balanced scales, and in their place electronic scales that probably could weight a small elephant. Also a table full of Weight Watchers products--foods, books, scales, and all sorts of things that could be had for a price. You could go broke before you lost a pound.

The Duchess told me to arrive half an hour early for registration and weight in, and I did. The meeting place is now walking distance from our house, but I was late and knew I couldn't walk it in 5 minutes, so I drove. (I was actually coming from work anyway and didn't stop at home first.)

The building sits in a park which is attached to the grammar school our kids attended, on the other side of the tennis courts. From the sidewalk you follow a little path that wends its way between the trees and past the courts to the building with the big sign that says "Welcome to Weight Watchers" in bright pink.

There were people walking around and I was embarrassed. Trying not to look fat standing in front of a building where Weight Watchers meetings take place.

It took all my nerve to climb those stairs, the open that door, and to face what I knew would be there--a bunch of people half my size talking about how fat they were. But I was there. I'd made the first step. Literally. So I took the clipboard this skinny dame with a plastic nametag handed me and I sat down and filled out the form. Then I stood in line behind two skinny people and waited till time to register and pay my $9.95. Then I went to weigh in. People were removing heavy garments and taking off shoes, but I figured what the heck. I just climbed up on the scale, shoes and all.

Why was I there, after all? I've decided I don't want to lose weight. I mean, that's not my sole purpose. I have decided in this new year to take charge of my physical and mental health. That means facing my diabetes diagnosis, getting that mammogram, seeing my therapist every two weeks, and starting a healthy eating program. The weight will come off, but I don't care if it's five pounds or fifty pounds or however many pounds. My goal is to take charge of my life. To take charge of my eating. Not to fit into any size-down clothes (though that would be nice). To live longer. There are things I still want to do in my life and I'm finished putting my life at risk. I've chosen to live, even if that means watching to the cheerleader pass out gold stars to people who have lost another 10 lbs.

So it didn't matter any more if I was the largest person there, and to my surprise as the people began to gather, I discovered that there were others like me there. Nobody cared. We were all there for the same reason. We wanted to do something good for ourselves.

And so the journey begins.

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Created 1/09/02